PRI’s The World has a fascinating series of stories on how wars end. The series is looking at past wars to give insight into how the Iraq war might end. Yesterday’s story covered the end of the Civil War and the failure of Reconstruction.
What’s so interesting is the assertion that the Civil War didn’t end at Appomattox. The battle continued, though it wasn’t always a military battle (though people still died):
Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations says it helps him understand how it’s possible to win the war, capture the capital but still lose the peace. He notes the North won the big military contest between 1861 and 1865, but that didn’t end the struggle. And over time, Biddle points out, Southern resistance paid off. In 1877 President Rutherford Hayes withdrew Northern troops from the South.
“And the South proceeds to essentially run out the Northern installed governments of the remaining Southern states, institutes what amounted to white one-party rule, removed blacks from voter rolls throughout the South and established a system of segregation, and that system remains to a significant degree all the way up until the civil rights movement of the 1960s.”
Biddle says if you look at in political terms, it’s possible to construct an argument that the South actually won the war.
That’s quite a claim, but it’s interesting to consider. If the Civil War was fought to bring freedom to blacks, you could argue that freedom wasn’t fully achieved until Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. How’s that for a long view of the conflict? Never thought I’d consider MLK a Civil War hero. That’s probably taking it a bit far, but it’s interesting to consider and is a strong counter to the myth that the Civil War ended amicably at Appomattox.